Sunday, April 10, 2011

Plantinga on Dennett

This is an entertaining read.


Dennett's rejoinder to the argument is that possibly, "there has been an evolution of worlds (in the sense of whole universes) and the world we find ourselves in is simply one among countless others that have existed throughout all eternity." And given infinitely many universes, Dennett thinks, all the possible distributions of values over the cosmological constants would have been tried out; [ 7 ] as it happens, we find ourselves in one of those universes where the constants are such as to allow for the development of intelligent life (where else?). 
Well, perhaps all this is logically possible (and then again perhaps not). As a response to a probabilistic argument, however, it's pretty anemic. How would this kind of reply play in Tombstone, or Dodge City? "Waal, shore, Tex, I know it's a leetle mite suspicious that every time I deal I git four aces and a wild card, but have you considered the following? Possibly there is an infinite succession of universes, so that for any possible distribution of possible poker hands, there is a universe in which that possibility is realized; we just happen to find ourselves in one where someone like me always deals himself only aces and wild cards without ever cheating. So put up that shootin' arn and set down 'n shet yore yap, ya dumb galoot." Dennett's reply shows at most ('at most', because that story about infinitely many universes is doubtfully coherent) what was never in question: that the premises of this argument from apparent design do not entail its conclusion. But of course that was conceded from the beginning: it is presented as a probabilistic argument, not one that is deductive valid. Furthermore, since an argument can be good even if it is not deductively valid, you can't refute it just by pointing out that it isn't deductively valid. You might as well reject the argument for evolution by pointing out that the evidence for evolution doesn't entail that it ever took place, but only makes that fact likely. You might as well reject the evidence for the earth's being round by pointing out that there are possible worlds in which we have all the evidence we do have for the earth's being round, but in fact the earth is flat. Whatever the worth of this argument from design, Dennett really fails to address it.

130 comments:

Bilbo said...

The problem with the poker example is that there would be far more universes where cheating occurred than universes where cheating did not occur. So shoot the guy. The probability is much greater that you live in a universe where he cheated.

&rew said...

If there are multiverses could we just happen to be in one that was designed by a Designer?

Ana said...

Dennett's rejoinder to the argument is that possibly, "there has been an evolution of worlds (in the sense of whole universes) and the world we find ourselves in is simply one among countless others that have existed throughout all eternity."

Well gee, if "possibly" carries enough wait among the lack-of-belief-ers, let's talk about how not only is there possibly a multiverse, but possibly every universe in the multiverse is identical to our own.

I'm liking this possibility thing!...

Anonymous said...

Plantinga spends a considerable amount of time responding to people like Dennett and Dawkins reminding us that they aren't very talented philosophers. It's a pity that this leaves him so little time to respond to the talented philosophers who have responded to his work. (Has he ever dealt with Fitelson and Sober's criticism of his EEAN? I've only seen a partial response and it didn't inspire much confidence (and didn't address many of their critical points)).

Matt said...

The astronomer Luke Barnes weighed in on this as a critique of William Lane Craig.

Matt said...

The link is here: http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/dirty-cheating-texan-a-fine-tuned-critique-of-william-lane-craig-part-1/

(Sorry I forgot to put it in my original comment)

Will said...

Dennett is just plain wrong to think that all the possible distribution of values over the cosmological constants would have been tried out given infinitely many universes.

There are infinitely many even numbers, but let's say that only universes with odd cosmological constants support life. You could have an infinite number of universes yet none could support life. Dennett would have to bite the bullet, embrace modal realism, and say that all POSSIBLE universes exist.

Isn't it curious how materialists begin by wanting to abolish God because He is empirically unobservable. They then frequently have to postulate empirically unobservable infinities to escape theistic conclusions:

Big Bang - infinite time preceded the Big Bang
Origin of life - infinitely large universe with infinite number of planets
Anthropic fine-tuning - infinitely many universes
The incompatibility of quantum theory with materialism (the London-Bauer thesis) - a human being is an infinitely numbers of inconsistent machines dividing and subdiving across infinitely many worlds as the universe unfolds

Doctor Logic said...

This demonstrates why Plantinga is overrated. The analogy would be more like this. Poker is a gme such that, just before you look at your hand, if the hand were not going to be four aces and a wild card, you would cease to exist. In such a situation, the only world you could find yourself in would be a world in which you look at your hand and find four aces and a wild card. It's called the Weak Anthropic Principle, and Plantinga demonstrates without any doubt that he doesn't understand it.

FWIW, I don't think multiverse theories explain our existence unless they make solid predictions about our universe. However, in that regard, they are just like theism. Theism doesn't predict our universe out of the alternatives either. At least not unless you fine tune theism to do exactly that. And, worse, theology doesn't even predict anything about physics, so it can't explain a damn thing. For example, God doesn't need to use physics at all.

Anonymous said...

And, worse, theology doesn't even predict anything about physics, so it can't explain a damn thing

And naturalism does?

GREV said...

" And, worse, theology doesn't even predict anything about physics, so it can't explain a damn thing. For example, God doesn't need to use physics at all."

And yet if physics is proving that there is a consciousness that underlies reality.

Then ... why does not a Being of Pure Consciousness use the laws of physics that point us to consciousness to order the Creation of all we see?

Riffle said...

DL,

There is a lot of bravado in your reply, but I think the misunderstanding lies with you. Plantinga isn't addressing the Weak AT, he is addressing the claim that an infinity of universes is sufficient to undermine the arg. from fine tuning. So what you say is irrelevant.

And you also say:

And, worse, theology doesn't even predict anything about physics, so it can't explain a damn thing. For example, God doesn't need to use physics at all.

But you don't need predictions! All you need is greater comparitive probability! See, for instance, this post on Prosblogion:

http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2010/12/a-simple-design.html

Mr Veale said...

Bilbo

I think that Plantinga's point might have been that in some instances design is clearly preferable to multiverses. Citing a multiverse doesn't establish very much.

DL

You are confusing to propositions.
(A) If an observer exists it is inevitable that he will observe organised complexity.
(B) It is inevitable* that an observer will exist.

*(or very probable, or whatever)


Graham

Mr Veale said...

You are also ignoring the possibilty of Boltzmann brains etc.

woodchuck64 said...


For there are other sources of knowledge in addition to reason: there are also (to put things Calvin's way) the Sensus Divinitatis, and faith, which is a response to the Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit. It is by virtue of these sources of knowledge that one knows the truths of faith, such truths as that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.


How does one go from this source of knowledge to Plantinga's hypotheses about the universe such as that God tinkered with the evolutionary process instead of designing it with a particular end, or that God created the first DNA rather than creating chemical and physical laws that led to it, or that God created just this one universe and not a multiverse? Is it Sensus Divinitatis or something else that causes Christians to be generally more skeptical of theories that give apparent support to atheism-- evolution, abiogenesis, multiverse?

Doctor Logic said...

Riffle,

I don't understand your response re: Plantinga's statement. In his example, I can have any hand. In a naturalistic universe, we can only exist if conditions are right, i.e., the only observation we can make is one compatible with our existence. So, for example, if our universe oscillates between different physical constants, or if there are multiple universes, then we can only find ourselves in a universe compatible with our existence. Clearly, the weak AP comes into play, but Plantinga doesn't see it.

To your second point, you're right, it's a relative probability argument. But you can't win it by fine-tuning your own theory.

The argument you cite claims that the looking at the space of all omnipotent, non-material designers with all possible goals, there's a bias in favor of designers who make physical worlds like ours. But on what grounds? It appears to be on the following grounds:

1) God will make a universe that appears totally naturalistic.

2) God values what we value.

3) We value our own existence.

4) Therefore, God will make a universe that looks a lot like ours.

You should find this argument obviously wanting. It's definitely fine-tuned, if not circular. "Why is the universe in a form we value? Because there's a really powerful guy who values what we value, and he made it that way!"

(1) isn't true. God doesn't need to use physics. The universe could look radically different, and there's no need for him to rely on physics at all. Entropy is irrelevant.

(2) Why, if we ignore wishful thinking down the ages, should we expect a God to value what we value?

Moreover, unless you have a pretty detailed model of what God is thinking, you don't really have an explanation. You would be saying that "the god in question is the kind of god who can explain our existence." Well, I can do the same by saying "my Theory of Everything is the kind of theory that can explain our existence."

Yet, I only get to count my theory when I have it formulated, and I don't have the formula. And neither do you, so you don't have a theory either. If you pick a theory, you have to back it up with verified predictions, or else its fine-tuning.

GREV said...

DL writes --

") isn't true. God doesn't need to use physics. The universe could look radically different, and there's no need for him to rely on physics at all."

Yet this is the universe we have. So physics has been used. I think we need to deal with that and then it seems ask the question; what is physics telling us?

It appears in the words of physicists from The Purpose Driven Universe that physics is telling us there is a consciousness that underlies the reality we see.

If the idea of a Creator Being called God can be conceived of in terms of Pure Consciousness (leaving aside the mode of self disclosure in Christian theism but being something I accept), then
the point quoted above appears to be invalid.

Love the discussion as it gives one much to consider.

And when reading for the demand for a verifiable theory regarding God's creative activity I am left thinking of Augustine's comments regarding God, mystery and knowing compeltely about God.

And lest someone think Augustine might have nothing to offer, I understand one of his points on cosmology is still quoted today with approval by cosmologists.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

God doesn't need to use physics. The universe could look radically different, and there's no need for him to rely on physics at all.

If God created this universe then this universe's physics are a part of his creation and there is no reason He can't use them either.

Why, if we ignore wishful thinking down the ages, should we expect a God to value what we value?

Because creations usually reflect the values of the creator. Novels reflect the values of the author, paintings reflect the values of the painter. Even the Model T reflected some of the values of Henry Ford (i.e. every American should be able to afford a car.) The idea that we don't share, on at least some level, some of the values of our creator is like saying the the US Constitution does not reflect the values of the Founding Fathers.

GREV said...

Karl Grant -- very nice rebuttal.

Karl Grant said...

Grev,

Thanks

Gordon Knight said...

One reason our creator should share our values is, perhaps, the values in question are true.

GREV said...

Karl Grant -- when I was writing my post around the same time you were, I wanted to put some of the ideas in to mine that you put into yours, but I felt I should not.

Then I read yours and understood why.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl, GREV,

Your responses address whether it is POSSIBLE for God to use physics, not whether it is likely.

So your responses don't help you in a debate about whether undiscovered God is more LIKELY than undiscovered physics.

You can certainly say that, a priori, we don't know if God will do X or Y. But if we don't know, then we ought to assign equal probability to him/her/it doing X or Y.

If you object to the above, then you ought not object to me making a similar argument about physics.

Your fine-tuning argument says that, a priori, we don't know why the physical constants are the way they are, and so we ought to give an equal share of probability to any set of constants we can imagine. And because there are so many possible worlds we can imagine, each particular world only gets a tiny sliver of the probability, and is a priori improbable. However, for all we know, if we understood all possible physics, we might find that ours is the only possible consistent way a universe could be.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. If we're going on probability, we have to divide it into equal shares to represent our ignorance. And the question is whether there are more shares in naturalism than there are in theism. It certainly seems to me that theism has vastly more possibilities, and, hence, many many more shares.

Doctor Logic said...

I can clarify that last part.

Vampires aren't completely subject to physical laws, right? They have special powers. They can transmogrify, influence minds at a distance, come back to life if not killed in certain prescribed ways, etc.

In other words, when we consider supernatural beings, we can imagine them living in our world, and transcending our physics.

It's not inconsistent to imagine an alternate universe in which the creator makes the physics of universe just like it is here, but made all humans like vampires in the sense that we overcome physics with will or magic or whatever. And we can go on to imagine countless variations of this creation, each one with beings with different degrees of magical powers, with all these instances of creation having the same physics as our universe.

We can also consider universes with very different physics than the physics in our universe, physics not compatible with human bodies, but in which live beings that have a magical existence in spite of the physics that would otherwise kill them if they were natural entities.

Clearly, God is compatible with vastly more possibilities, vastly more "shares" than naturalistic physics is compatible with. And each share is diluted accordingly. Theism is fine-tuned even more than naturalism is.

In short, even if you say that God is more likely to create life-filled creations (which isn't obvious at all), the overwhelming majority of those creations won't look any more like ours than the alternative physical universes.

Karl Grant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GREV said...

DL -- good posts.

I get the sense of agreement on some things and obvious differences on others.

I move on from possible to a ready acceptance of likely as I survey this world, the one that I live, move and have my being in.

This world, the one we live in, tells me that the likely is -- based on the evidence -- the world operates according to the laws of physics.

To quote in a partial way, Richard Dawkins I believe.

On another note, I misquoted the book title I believe and should have called it Purpose-Guided Universe.

Physics is talking about consciousness. In the limited way physics can describe the evidence handed to us by this physical world.

God who is vasatly greater than Physics and its laws uses them to create and sustain what is seen. God is not the creation or bound by it but works through it.

So, yes such a Supernatural Being transcends our physics but to say this Being cannot use what this Being transcends is not something I can agree to.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

whether undiscovered God is more LIKELY than undiscovered physics.

I think you are making a category error by saying we must have one or the other. But you do not put a carpenter and piece of lumber in the same category. And looking for a carpenter to actually exist in the walls of a house is as foolish as claiming the house assembled itself.

we don't know if God will do X or Y. But if we don't know, then we ought to assign equal probability to him/her/it doing X or Y.

Correction, we don't know for certain God will do X or Y. But going by God's past actions and what he has revealed to humanity we can make a guess as to whether he leans towards X or Y. Just like I can make a guess has to how you would respond to my post based on how you responded to other people, both at this blog and others. I expected some variation of the Invisible Pink Unicorn argument and I was not disappointed.


If we're going on probability, we have to divide it into equal shares to represent our ignorance.

Probability is influenced by evidence and God does have a bit of anecdotal evidence on His side. We have had millions of people who claimed to have experienced God's presence, had divine revelations, etc... The multiverse theory is a pure theoretical construct that has absolutely no evidence to back it up. We have not seen another universe, met someone from another universe, opened a portal to another universe, etc...

Mr Veale said...

DL

1) We can imagine all sorts of logically possible worlds; however it is the logically plausible worlds that could be actualised. I'm not sure that your "vampire world" really helps very much.

2) Again, your "undiscovered physics" just shows that the Design Argument isn't an inductive proof.

3) We know from introspection that agents can produce intricately ordered states of affairs. We know from observation that agents frequently produce intricately ordered states of affairs. And if values are objective, God will share some values with human agents (unless we are prepared to endorse some kind of extreme moral scepticism). Finally, even if values are not objective, it does seem more probable than not that God would value agents.

4) You need to provide an argument for the proposition that we can know nothing about what God would value. Some argument for negative theology or moral scepticism is owed here. Not a vague appeal to what seems to be the case.

Graham

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,


Vampires aren't completely subject to physical laws, right?

Well, if you want to play that game, they aren't completely subject to natural laws as we know them. We can do things now that scientists of an earlier generation would, and did dismiss, as impossible according to their knowledge of natural laws at the time. So it could be that your fictional vampires are very much governed by natural laws.

And by the way, don't you think it is just a little ingenious to say that if a claim is unprovable then it’s in the same category as everything you just made up? I mean your second post is one unsupported assumption after another. Take, for example, the overwhelming majority of those creations won't look any more like ours than the alternative physical universes. For you to know that to be true you would have to have seen another creation/alternative physical universe and I am guessing you haven't.

GREV said...

Graham and Karl Grant

Very good. You are detailing some very nice counter arguments.

Hopefully some day when I grow up I will be as smart as the two of you.

Keep at my reading so the arguments will become imprinted in my thought processes.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

I think you are making a category error by saying we must have one or the other. But you do not put a carpenter and piece of lumber in the same category. And looking for a carpenter to actually exist in the walls of a house is as foolish as claiming the house assembled itself.

Sorry, I have no idea what you're trying to say here.

Correction, we don't know for certain God will do X or Y. But going by God's past actions and what he has revealed to humanity we can make a guess as to whether he leans towards X or Y.

Illegal move. There are countless possible gods, and countless moves, these gods could make. So, you're going to fine-tune your god to match observations. That is, assuming God exists, he must be the kind of God who makes worlds like ours.

Yet this is exactly what scientists are already doing with fine-tuning. There are countless physical theories, but we're going to suppose that the actual theory can be judged based on our experience so far.

What's the difference in procedure?

(Apart from the fact that scientists can make predictions after their fine-tuning, and you can't.)

Probability is influenced by evidence and God does have a bit of anecdotal evidence on His side. We have had millions of people who claimed to have experienced God's presence, had divine revelations, etc.

Bayes Theorem. What are the odds that people would report experiences of God if he didn't exist? Turns out it's 100%. Therefore, this isn't evidence that God exists.

But the multiverse is irrelevant to the argument above, anyway. Just plain naturalistic physics does better than theism, even without a multiverse.

Doctor Logic said...

Graham,

1) We can imagine all sorts of logically possible worlds; however it is the logically plausible worlds that could be actualised. I'm not sure that your "vampire world" really helps very much.

What's the difference between logically possible and logically plausible? Are you saying that it is impossible for a god to create a world in which humans have magical powers that render them immune from physical threats?

2) Again, your "undiscovered physics" just shows that the Design Argument isn't an inductive proof.

Really?

You have a lot of hand-waving in your argument about what god would want.

3) We know from introspection that agents can produce intricately ordered states of affairs.

Yes, they can. And we know this from induction, actually.

We know from observation that agents frequently produce intricately ordered states of affairs.

This is also a statement from induction. And creating such states of affairs is something that provides a survival advantage to us. So?

And if values are objective, God will share some values with human agents (unless we are prepared to endorse some kind of extreme moral scepticism).

It's not extreme scepticism. Just subjectivism.

Finally, even if values are not objective, it does seem more probable than not that God would value agents.

Why? Consider why we value agents. We value them as play partners, or for their utility. To God, we have neither. So there's no inductive argument from our experience to the prediction that God would value agents. God has infinite computing power, and can't play games because he knows what your next move will be.

GREV said...

DL -- appreciate your replies but several things come to mind.

When Augustine, a theologian makes comments on cosmology that are still quoted favourably by cosmologists, then your claim that theology teaches us nothing is rendered suspect.

" Just plain naturalistic physics does better than theism, even without a multiverse."

Current reading that I am doing in physics and philosophy suggests that such a statement which seems in favour of the -- beginningless universe idea -- is then favouring a highly complex and/or esoteric understanding of the Beginning of the Universe.

Which then violates many accepted ideas,such as parsimony and Ockham's Razor for starters, which I understand argue that the universe is more adequately explained in simpler terrms then the beginningless idea allows for.

Finally, very good books like Naturalism: A Critical Analysis tells us that Naturalism -- physics or otherwise -- does not do an acceptable job in accounting for Knowledge.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

Sorry, I have no idea what you're trying to say here.

That you are imposing a false dichotomy by saying our choice is either God or unknown physics.

Illegal move. There are countless possible gods, and countless moves, these gods could make.

There is something ironic about a self-professed Doctor of Logic using an appeal to ignorance (i,e, a logical fallacy). You should know that you cannot construct an argument based solely on ignorance or ambiguity. If "there are so many possibilities, we just can't know!" carried weight as an argument science would have ground to a halt long ago.

So, you're going to fine-tune your god to match observations.

I am going to argue for what I believe to be true and why I believe observations support it. That is the purpose of a debate. If you are saying I have to support something I don't believe in I am going to demand that you provide evidential support and logically coherent arguments for your vampires.

That is, assuming God exists, he must be the kind of God who makes worlds like ours.

Most religions define God (or gods) as being the ruler(s) and creator(s) of this universe. It is also one of the definitions for God in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

What are the odds that people would report experiences of God if he didn't exist? Turns out it's 100%. Therefore, this isn't evidence that God exists.

Seriously, what are the odds that people would report experiences of God if he did exist? Turns out it's 100%. But if you are correct about this line of argument then I must offer my congratulations as you have just shown history and our justice system to be seriously flawed.("People report witnessing events they did not. These reports make it into mainstream circulation and are written down for prosperity. Therefore, much of what we know of history is wrong!")

And I guess I owe that Holocaust denier an apology since he used Bayes Theorem and claimed the odds that people would report experiencing the Holocaust if it didn't happen were 100% and I told him he was full of it.

Karl Grant said...

On a related note, isn't it odd that an atheist would use Bayes' Theorem considering it was developed by the Revered Thomas Bayes and was used as an argument for God. As Richard Price wrote:

The purpose I mean is, to shew what reason we have for believing that there are in the constitution of things fixt laws according to which things happen, and that, therefore, the frame of the world must be the effect of the wisdom and power of an intelligent cause; and thus to confirm the argument taken from final causes for the existence of the Deity. It will be easy to see that the converse problem solved in this essay is more directly applicable to this purpose; for it shews us, with distinctness and precision, in every case of any particular order or recurrency of events, what reason there is to think that such recurrency or order is derived from stable causes or regulations in nature, and not from any irregularities of chance.
-Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London

Mr Veale said...

Dr Logic

I'll try to be as brief as I can, but I'll need to take each point one at a time.
(2) is easily dealt with, however.
(i) I mistyped - I should have said "deductive proof", not "inductive".
(ii) The laws of nature describe physical states of affairs - observed regularities. So to say that a "new physics" could show that only one set of physical laws is possible, is to say that only one universe is logically possible. We've no good reason to believe that only one universe could exist, and many good reasons to believe that this isn't the case.
(iii) You still need to explain why this universe exists, for your "new physics" to describe.

Mr Veale said...

Point 3
(i) Sunspots appear as darker features on the photosphere of the Sun, and are regions of slightly lower temperature. Suppose that scientists were to observe a Sunspot behaving in a very unusual fashion. The Sunspot dips and rises in temperature very rapidly at regular intervals. After a period of observation, an unexpected pattern emerges. The sunspot’s temperature will dip and rise from 4000 to 3000 K twice, then three times, five times, seven, eleven, thirteen, etc. After a period of rest the cycle will begin again, but each time a new Prime Number is added. We can label this phenomenon the “Mathematical Sunspot”. It seems obtuse not to consider design as a likelier explanation of the Sunspot’s activity than a “purely random” process, even though we have no independent knowledge of the "designers" goals, values or abilities.

(ii) One reason that an “agent explanation” for the mathematical sunspot seems plausible is that it has features that would give a rational agent reason to bring it about.
(iii) Think about a painting, a Cathedral or a novel. Patterns, parts or sentences are arranged into a whole so that some aesthetic or utilitarian purpose can be realised. There is some property about the whole state of affairs, over and above the parts that make up the whole, that would impress a rational agent, and that would give an agent a reason to bring the whole about. And it is the value that partly explains why the complex fact exists. The beauty of the “Lady with Ermine” is part of the reason that Leonardo da Vinci put various complex coloured patterns on a canvas. The beauty gives the designer a reason to bring about the whole complex pattern.
(iv) God, by hypothesis, counts as a rational agent having knowledge, power and freedom. Therefore if God acts he acts for reasons. Can we know a priori what reasons God would have for acting? Well, God would act to bring about states of affairs that God would value. Can we know a priori what God would value? That is, does anything interesting or informative follow from the concept of God?
Being omniscient, free and omnipotent God would know desire and be able to bring about objectively Good states of affairs. Richard Swinburne argues that God’s omniscience guarantees that God would know what is good and his omnipotence guarantees that there is no external constraint that would prevent God from wishing the Good. Whilst our understanding of the Good may be limited, it seems unduly sceptical to say we cannot make any reliable judgments about what is truly valuable. A complete moral scepticism would follow. So there would be states of affairs that both humans and God would regard as valuable.The more broadly we construe the value (beauty or consciousness as opposed to vertebrate eyes or neural networks) the more likely that we are to be identifying a value that God also recognises.
(v) So complex states of affairs that bring about a value are more likely on Theism than on Chance. And it is the likelihood comparison that is important.

Anonymous said...

"Bayes Theorem. What are the odds that people would report experiences of God if he didn't exist? Turns out it's 100%. Therefore, this isn't evidence that God exists."

Well, if theism is true, it is 0%, because then there would be no God to create anyone. Arguments like this are question begging.

JS Allen said...

This post is yet more evidence that Vic has some of the smartest commenters on the Internet.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

Let's do something more elementary.

We know that a fair coin, by definition, has a 50/50 chance of coming up heads. This is by definition, I suppose, although, theoretically, the coin could land on its edge. So we would say that the odds of getting heads are very slightly less than 50%. This is not controversial.

Now let's suppose that I have a two-headed coin. The odds of flipping the coin and getting heads are just shy of 100%, right?

Now let's suppose that I'm in a country where coins have two of 3 different symbols or images on them, only one of which is heads. The coin could have heads or tails, heads or ducks or tails and ducks. In this case, the heads of flipping a random fair coin and getting heads are about 1 in 3. Good so far?

Now, if we suppose we know less about these coins, what will happen to the expectation that I get heads?

NOTE! I'm not saying I know more about the circumstances of the coin flip, but less. Let's suppose I've been kidnapped and taken to a country with more kinds of coin symbols, or with no heads at all. Isn't it true that my ignorance means the expectation of my getting heads is lower?

Yes, it's possible I've been kidnapped to a country in which every coin is two-headed, but since there are vastly more possible symbols that can go on coins, and I have no reason to suppose that the country would make two-headed coins rather than, say, two elephant-sided coins, the odds of me flipping and getting heads on a fair coin is now much much lower?

The point I want to make is that ignorance implies a lower probability of any particular outcome. Indeed, the fine-tuning argument used by Christians relies on this fact. If I don't know why the physical constants had to line up the way they do, then my ignorance of the limits on what constants can be must translate into improbability in their coming up in some particular fashion (like those of our universe).

Doctor Logic said...

Graham,

As with Karl, I want to take things one step at a time.

Suppose I have some state of affairs, S. If I want to explain this state, I have to find some prior state, and some set of principles that makes S more likely than the alternative, or S inevitable. Agreed?

For example, if a glass breaks and scatters on the floor, a good explanation is that the glass was a few feet off the ground, and that it fell due to gravity. Gravity is a general principle that is predictive.

Or, if my coffee mug has coffee in it, this is explained by the general principles that I am thirsty (and sleepy!!!), that I have certain abilities, that coffee is available, and that I can foresee that pushing water through coffee beans makes a thirst-quenching, invigorating beverage, that I have opportunity to make the drink, and that I generally act to achieve my goals, etc. Consequently, it is more likely that I would make my self coffee than it would, by physics alone, pop into existence. Again, this is predictive. If I am thirsty, you can predict I will get myself a drink. Probably coffee, if available.

This is all good, right?

In physics, the ultimate explanation will be some statement about initial conditions, and the most general principles of the universe. Preferably, a single equation that's rather short.

Now, it's natural to wonder if there's a deeper explanation, but if we say there isn't one, then we would be saying that the equation and the initial conditions are brute facts that are inexplicable.

If we say there is a deeper explanation, then we would be saying that any explanation of the ultimate physical theory must have initial conditions and principles of its own. Indeed, God has conditions and principles in abundance. God is vastly more complex than, say, string theory. In order to describe something like pleasure or goodness requires a really really big set of equations.

If I were a theist, I would end up in the same position. God would have some properties that were brute facts, i.e., not explicable even in principle from anything simpler.

However, God makes a terrible explanation for an ultimate physical theory because God is vastly more complex. I might as well propose that there's an even more ultimate physical theory that's vastly more complex than string theory in order to explain string theory.

Bottom line: if the chain of explanations terminates, it must terminate at brute facts about initial conditions and general principles.

GREV said...

As I do my own reading I am left just citing the people far more knowledgeable in physics then I am.

My reading keeps leading me to the fact that the naturalistic explanation as an ultimate explanation is highly improbable and the theistic explanation as an ultimate explanation is far simpler and squares with the evidence that does not prove God ultimately -- but allows us to say the facts stand in favour of Theism as the ultimate reason for why everything exists.

But DL carry on with Graham and Karl -- the stuff is fascinating.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

We have more than two symbols on coins in America (the various presidential heads like Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, etc..., the penny has the lincoln Memorial on the back, the nickel the Monticello, etc...) but a coin always has two sides. No matter what country you are in or what symbols are on the currency, the probability that one side of the coin will come up will always be fifty-fifty.

And even if you do end up in foreign country were you don't know anything about the currency some local will probably be more than happy to explain it to you (sort of like a theologian can with religion). Or you can figure it out yourself. I remember when I went to South Korea and it didn't take me long to figure out the won. Not surprising since all currency tends to share certain characteristics and all countries have to adhere to certain guidelines to facilitate international trade.

And since we are talking about ignorance and probability let's take a look at scientific theories into the naturalistic origin of life. We have the Urey–Miller experiment but now we think atmospheric conditions during Earth's early years were quite a bit different then those used for the experiment (even Dr. Miller admits his experiment proves nothing). We have the Panspermia theory, that life on Earth was seeded here via comet or asteroid but we are still left with the rich question of were the life on the comet came from.

In fact, a quick Google search can provide you with some three or four dozen different competing theories on the the naturalistic origin of life and most of them have some pretty big gaps of knowledge in them. Now, according to the standards you are holding theism to, we should dismiss all naturalistic theories on the origin of life because of that ignorance.

GREV said...

Karl:

"In fact, a quick Google search can provide you with some three or four dozen different competing theories on the the naturalistic origin of life and most of them have some pretty big gaps of knowledge in them. Now, according to the standards you are holding theism to, we should dismiss all naturalistic theories on the origin of life because of that ignorance."


Excellent Point.

The reading I am doing right now underscores the points you are making.

That the naturalistic explanation as the ultimate explanation is highly improbable.

And the question that keeps coming to me is -- if the opponents of theism say they only go where the evidence leads; then why can't they take the step and follow where the evidence is pointing them to?

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

Perhaps you could look at my last comment in the spirit in which it was written. I refer to heads as being a specific symbol. And the question is, what are the odds of getting a specific symbol (or class of symbol) in cases where (1) you know what symbols are on the coin, (2) you know what possible symbols are on coins in general, but not on this specific coin, etc.

In other words, please don't get hung up on my use of the word "heads".

Again, I'm talking about the relative odds of getting a certain symbol on a coin flip when you (a) know what symbols are on the specific coin, and (b) in cases where you don't know what symbols are on this specific coin, but only know what symbols the mint had to choose from, i.e., you only know what possible symbols could be on the coin.

And my point is that, the more symbols could be on the coin, the lower the odds of getting a specific symbol. Agreed?

If so, you can see that I'm not making an argument from ignorance. I'm saying that ignorance translates into lower odds for a specific outcome.

JS Allen said...

"Isn't it true that my ignorance means the expectation of my getting heads is lower?"

No, absolutely not. You may have higher odds, lower odds, or the same odds. Ignorance may impact your confidence but doesn't impact the actual probability.

I take it that your academic or professional background does not involve math? If you're going to be making claims that depend on math, I would suggest citing a competent source rather than guessing.

"However, God makes a terrible explanation for an ultimate physical theory because God is vastly more complex."

Again, this statement only shows that you are bad at math. If you're going to compare two things, you need a consistent measurement. Let's take, for example, the Kolmogorov measure of complexity, since that's relatively well defined.

To measure the complexity of a single universe, you offer a a description that specifies the fundamental constants. The problem is, we don't know whether or not the constants are simple. A couple of them may have practically infinite complexity. We simply don't know, and we are nowhere near being able to say.

Likewise, the multiverse might make things better, or might make things worse. Imagine the multiverse generator as randomly choosing physical constants and generating universes with those parameters. If it is using a pseudorandom generator, maybe the kolmogorov complexity is small. If it is truly random, though, the complexity is essentially infinite. We simply have no way of saying what the complexity of the current favored models are.

If you're not going to talk about kolmogorov complexity, you still need a precisely defined measure that can be used for comparisons.

Also, one could argue that the God hypothesis is very simple. God would be incredibly complex if He were a physical being, of course, but as a purely spiritual being, the description required could be quite small.

Shackleman said...

Dr. Logic: "If so, you can see that I'm not making an argument from ignorance. I'm saying that ignorance translates into lower odds for a specific outcome."

This is absolutely not correct. One's knowledge and/or ignorance has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with probability.

I think what you want to be saying is, the more one accurately knows about a given set of parameters, the more accurately one can predict potential outcomes. But that is elementary, obvious and not controversial and it doesn't help your case any.

GREV said...

Hello:

Maybe I am completely off base here but I offer the following to then ask --

“Roger Penrose, Owen Gingerich, Fred Hoyle, Walter Bradley, Brandon Carter, Paul Davies and others have assembled an immense amount of data to show the very narrow, closed range of values required for our universe's energetic, individuating, large-scale and fine-structure constants allowing for anthropic conditions. This narrow range of constants is necessary for both an initial state and gradual unfolding of the universe toward an anthropic condition.”

From – page 57, New Proofs for the Existence of God Spitzer. The author then goes on to define 7 instances of these narrow range of constants that the data has allowed us to discover.


Since a large amount of data has been assembled by the experts and it points in a certain direction then it seems we are not arguing from ignorance here. The data seems to demand that we can be on very safe grounds to postulate a super intelligent being as a designer/creator of all that is seen.

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

No, absolutely not. You may have higher odds, lower odds, or the same odds. Ignorance may impact your confidence but doesn't impact the actual probability.

Sigh. Probability and randomness can be ontological or epistemic. Suppose you invite me for dinner, and prepare a meal (mac & cheese) for me without telling me what you're preparing in advance. By the time I show up, I still don't know what you have cooked. However, I can still meaningfully speak of the probability that you made steak & kidney pudding or hamburgers. Epistemically, it is uncertain what you made. Ontologically, all the probability is in one bucket, i.e., in the bucket corresponding to mac & cheese.

We're talking about epistemic probability here.

Another example. You deal cards off a deck. 2,3,4,5 6 of clubs. Is the deck sorted or shuffled? Well, whether it was shuffled or sorted, there's no ontological probability relevant to the assessment. Even if it was shuffled classically, the odds were unity (going forward) that we would end up where we are. The probability assessment is epistemic.

One more way of making the distinction. Ontological probability is deductive based on axioms. If I understand the initial state and the rules perfectly, I can talk of probability of getting any particular outcome. But we're going in reverse, using induction to assess which axioms to have more confidence in.

I take it that your academic or professional background does not involve math? If you're going to be making claims that depend on math, I would suggest citing a competent source rather than guessing.

^%$# you.

Doctor Logic said...

Shackleman,

Read what I wrote to JS Allen. (Except the last paragraph.)

There's ontological probability - predicting outcomes from known axioms - and epistemic probability - inferring axioms from outcomes.

I'm talking about the latter. I'm talking about Bayesian probability assessment.

When you want to compare two theories (i.e., two competing sets of axioms), you look at the number of final states compatible with each theory. The theory with a higher proportion of final states compatible with observation is favored.

Back to cards. Dealing off a deck 2,3,4,5,6 of clubs supports the theory that the deck is sorted rather than shuffled because there are 310 million more ways a shuffle could have gone, than there are ways an ascending sort by suit and rank could have gone.

A theory compatible with more outcomes fares worse.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

If so, you can see that I'm not making an argument from ignorance. I'm saying that ignorance translates into lower odds for a specific outcome.

No, and since you can't seem to get what I am driving at allow me to spell it out for you, the odds are the same regardless of your ignorance. Your chance of getting a certain symbol (duck, tail, heads, to use your terminology) is the same regardless of what you know. Your ignorance only determines what you think the odds are, not what they actually are. Unknown is not the same thing as invalid or even highly unlikely nor does it translate into increased odds.

Also, if you are saying that ignorance determines probability then you are basically saying perception determines reality and that is a belief in magic of the purest, most explicit sort.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

I'll expect a comment on ontological versus epistemic probability from you.

In the meantime, if you're going to say that ignorance doesn't affect probability, then you don't have a fine tuning argument. You may believe that alternative physical constants preclude the possibility of life, but even if that is true (which is doubtful), you are assuming that all the parameters are independent. The history of physics looks like a story of unification, so it's possible that those other universes aren't possible. We don't know. So by that logic, there's no fine-tuning problem because our lack of knowledge of ultimate physics can't be used to say our world is improbable.

JS Allen said...

"By the time I show up, I still don't know what you have cooked. However, I can still meaningfully speak of the probability that you made steak & kidney pudding or hamburgers."

Yes, but adding more possibilities to what I might have made does not change your expectations one way or the other. If it does, you're bad at math.

You can't reduce someone's expectations that I made hamburgers by generating a bunch of imaginary recipes that I might make, just like you can't dilute away your bad math with an infinite number of gibberish arguments.

GREV said...

Karl:

"And I can turn this around and say that you can't determine our universe is a random occurrence because our lack of knowledge of ultimate physics can't be used to say our world is probable. That's the thing, our world is either fine-tuned or random, one or the other. What you and I think about the probability of either option is ultimately irrelevant. We have an obligation to find out which is true and dismissing one out of hand because we don't think it's possible is not going to accomplish that."

Very good!

Doing other stuff so just following but like what I am reading.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic

I'll expect a comment on ontological versus epistemic probability from you.

Well I'll oblige. Let's use your dinner scenario. You can guess what your friend is cooking, you may even conclude that you have a 60% chance of getting steak but if you think that actually means that there is a real 60% probability that you are getting steak then you are deluded. Your friend has made mac & cheese, the probability of you being served mac & cheese is 100%, your odds of getting steak are 0%.

You may believe that alternative physical constants preclude the possibility of life, but even if that is true (which is doubtful), you are assuming that all the parameters are independent.

Where does the parameters are independent come from? If the universe is designed wouldn't it make more sense for it together as a whole? Isn't that one of the hallmarks of intelligent design or do you commonly drive a car without the engine connected to the gas tank? Regardless, whither you or I think they are independent is irrelevant to whither they actually are.

And I don't think alternative physical constants preclude the possibility of life, science says so. Take, for example, the Mass 5-8 Bottleneck. In order to build elements heavier than helium we could add one particle at a time, but there are no long-lived nuclei of mass 5. We could fuse helium nuclei except there are no long-lived nuclei of mass 8. The escape from the bottleneck is that nuclei of mass 8 can survive long enough for a third helium nucleus to collide with it, creating a carbon nucleus. If you change the fundamental constants of nuclear physics one way and heavy nuclei can't form at all; change them a the other way, and the universe would have run out of fuel long before life formed.

So by that logic, there's no fine-tuning problem because our lack of knowledge of ultimate physics can't be used to say our world is improbable.

And I can turn this around and say that you can't determine our universe is a random occurrence because our lack of knowledge of ultimate physics can't be used to say our world is probable. That's the thing, our world is either fine-tuned or random, one or the other. What you and I think about the probability of either option is ultimately irrelevant. We have an obligation to find out which is true and dismissing one out of hand because we don't think it's possible is not going to accomplish that.

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

You can't reduce someone's expectations that I made hamburgers by generating a bunch of imaginary recipes that I might make, just like you can't dilute away your bad math with an infinite number of gibberish arguments.

You, sir, are an arrogant ignoramus.

Q1A) Suppose you believe I know 10 recipes. Given only that I can only cook 10 recipes, and that I am cooking one of them tonight, what are the odds that I will cook any particular one of them?

Q1B) Suppose you believe I know 100 recipes. Given only that I can cook only 100 recipes, and that I am cooking one of them tonight, what are the odds that I will cook any particular one of them?

According to you, the answer to questions Q1A and Q1B are the same.

Q2A) I have a 6-sided die. I will roll the die. What are the odds that I will roll a 1?

Q2B) I have a 20-sided die. I will roll the die. What are the odds that I will roll a 1?

If you give the same answer for Q2A and Q2B, then we *must* play poker.

Bonus question:

Q3) All you know is that I just rolled a die and got a 1. What's more likely, that I rolled the 6-sided die or the 20-sided die?

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

You dodged the ontological versus epistemic probability question. Was that deliberate or do you really not appreciate what I'm saying?

You compare the 60% chance of getting steak to a particular certainty in a single trial, and claim I was deluded because I got a particular certain outcome on one trial. Are you serious?

The epistemic probability estimate of 60% means that averaged over 100 dinners, I would expect 60 of them to be steak. It doesn't mean they will all be steak. Getting a particular outcome does not prove the statistical estimate wrong.

Epistemic probability assessment is how we expect things of the future. There's a 1% chance of surviving a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. Are you going to jump off it because you think the 1% estimate will be shown delusional in a particular trial in which you survive?

Of course, that's utter nonsense. The 1% rate means if you take 100 people and have them all jump off the bridge, only 1 of them is likely to survive.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

Regardless, whither you or I think they are independent is irrelevant to whither they actually are.

You're doing it again. Whether you or I think it is dangerous for you to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge is independent of whether you will die when you do it?

What are the odds that the ocean has the same shape as the shoreline? Isn't that an amazing coincidence? Of all the shapes the ocean could take, and all the shapes the shore could take, what are the odds that they would match up exactly?

Well, it's not a coincidence because the two are not independent variables. Similarly, the physical constants are not independent. They are connected by spontaneous symmetry breaking.

As for whether the universe is fine-tuned for life, that's not remotely clear.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_universe

Besides, because of the anthropic principle fine-tuning is not related to the probability of life forming in our universe. Nothing we observe tests for that. It only relates the the likelihood of having particular parameters, not to particular parameters for life.

Basically, in a Bayesian probability calculation the probability of life forming in a universe like ours drops out of the equation. So life is not a factor in the probability calculations.

That's the thing, our world is either fine-tuned or random, one or the other.

No, it's random either way. Eventually your preferred explanation has to terminate in some facts about God, and those, too, will be arbitrary.

And I can turn this around and say that you can't determine our universe is a random occurrence because our lack of knowledge of ultimate physics can't be used to say our world is probable.

It doesn't work that way. Look at the die problem I gave to JS Allen. I roll a die and get a 1. Is it more likely I rolled the 1 on a 6-sided die or a 20-sided die?

If I can show that die #1 has multiple possibilities for each possibility on die #2, and I prove that rolling a particular outcome on die #2 is more likely. Even if I don't know how many possibilities there are on each die.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

You dodged the ontological versus epistemic probability question. Was that deliberate or do you really not appreciate what I'm saying?

I think it is more of a case of you failing to grasp what me and Allen are saying.

You compare the 60% chance of getting steak to a particular certainty in a single trial, and claim I was deluded because I got a particular certain outcome on one trial.

No, I am saying you are deluded if you think that what you believe is probable has any bearing whatsoever on what actually exists.

The epistemic probability estimate of 60% means that averaged over 100 dinners, I would expect 60 of them to be steak. It doesn't mean they will all be steak.

You know, you don't seem to grasp that you are not talking about a completely random mechanism here. You are talking about a intelligent, self-aware being (like God) and the choices he makes. That is an entirely different kettle of fish then a die throw. Your friend might decide to be nice to you and give you steak 100% of the time. He might be pissed and give you pig slop 100% of the time. Either way, what you expect isn't going to affect what you get.

There's a 1% chance of surviving a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. Are you going to jump off it because you think the 1% estimate will be shown delusional in a particular trial in which you survive?

Depends, do I get a parachute or a bungee cord? Joking aside, you keep missing the point, deliberately I think, and that is that what you think the odds are actually determines reality. You say that you are more likelier than most to survive a jump off the Golden Gate than most people, you could say there is no chance of surving the jump, but in the end reality doesn't care. What you think the odds are has no bearing on what is.

JS Allen said...

DL,

I appreciate that you are sincerely trying to say something, but I really don't think you're communicating clearly. If nobody understands what you're saying, it could mean that you are the only smart person in the room -- or it could mean something else.

I've used Bayesian methods professionally to model problems in a handful of divergent domains over the past 20 years, and I'm having a really difficult time seeing any coherent thrust to what you say. Maybe it's because I've constrained myself to pedestrian scenarios and not to Bayesian philosophy, but I am really not getting the impression that you have a grasp on the most basic math. Maybe you're just not good at explaining.

You've lurched from cards to recipes to 20-sided die, and tossed out some inexplicable comments about "ontological probability". It really feels like you read a few articles and are mixing a few different things together.

I'm sorry that you took umbrage at my suggestion to cite an authority, but I was trying to be constructive. My assumption is that you're trying to paraphrase something you've read somewhere else (or is the whole line of argument something that you made up all by yourself?) If you point us to your original source, maybe we'll be able to read it and understand what you're trying to say.

Karl Grant said...

Whether you or I think it is dangerous for you to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge is independent of whether you will die when you do it?

Bingo, you can believe that you will survive the jump all you want. You can believe that the odds are in your favor. In the end it doesn't matter. To put it another way, many young teenagers think they are invincible, that a fatal car crash will never happen to them. Do you think that belief actually lessens the probability of them getting in a head-on collision? If so, you think that your beliefs can manipulate reality.

Besides, because of the anthropic principle fine-tuning is not related to the probability of life forming in our universe.

I am going to paraphrase Daniel Castellano quite a bit here by saying that most people who use the anthropic principle have a failure to understand the meaning of probability. Probability is not an objective absolute, but relative to a determined set of conditions. When all the conditions are specified, the only probabilities are one or zero.We know that life has arisen in this universe so we might restrict the possible values of the universe's fundamental constants to those which permit the sustaining of life.

But this is an after-the-fact revision which is based on our knowledge that life does in fact exist in our universe. This revision does not abolish the fact that, without specifying the condition that life exists, the anterior probability distribution of values for the fundamental constants might have been very different. It would be circular logic to invoke this restriction in probabilities as the condition determining life, since these restricted probabilities assume life as their condition. (most of this is Castellano's words, not mine)

Is it more likely I rolled the 1 on a 6-sided die or a 20-sided die?

Depends, die two could have been rigged to land on one more without you knowledge. So you may think that die two has a 1-in-20 chance of landing a 1 but in reality it has a 1-in-3 chance of landing on one or a 1-in-1 chance. Like I keep saying and you keep ignoring, your beliefs doesn't effect actual probability.

JS Allen said...

DL,

It might help if you go back and respond to my comments about your misunderstanding of complexity, and also about your claim that ignorance lowers odds. Those are the first two claims I answered, and you seem to have changed the subject.

With your recipe and 20-sided die examples, you are not making any headway. Neither is relevant to your blanket statement about "ignorance lowers the odds", but you're making a blunder in the new scenario as well. You can't possibly think that the recipe scenario is equal to the 20-sided die scenario, can you? Unless the chef was rolling a 100-sided die to choose between 100 different recipes, the scenarios aren't remotely the same.

Do you really think the choice of meal is different if the box is later stuffed with a million blank recipes for "Tasty pink unicorn style #999"? Bayes doesn't work that way, and you wouldn't keep a job long if that's the way you did your math.

GREV said...

Some reflections on what I have read. For what it may be worth and perhaps not much.
Quoting one person -- “We know that life has arisen in this universe so we might restrict the possible values of the universe's fundamental constants to those which permit the sustaining of life. “

Yes, physics has established at least 7 fundamental constants that are amazingly fine tuned for allowing the type of life we see to exist. And the amount of variance that could have occured is so minimal to still allow for this life to exist it moved one physicist working on the numbers to speak of a Creator. See the work of Roger Penrose.

To quote someone again -- “Probability is not an objective absolute, but relative to a determined set of conditions. “

I appreciate that comment as I relate to the physics reading I am doing right now and the constant reminder by the author that the proofs in physics, do not prove God but that the sets of conditions for life to exist that have been discovered by the physicists, sure tell us that some amazingly detailed work was done and to say it was all left up to the probability of chance is rather far fetched to say the least.
The determined set of conditions demonstrated by the evidence allows us to point with a great degree of confidence to a super intelligent design agent or Being.

I like this -- “Also, one could argue that the God hypothesis is very simple. God would be incredibly complex if He were a physical being, of course, but as a purely spiritual being, the description required could be quite small.”

That is why I like the definition found in one of Keith Ward's books that says God is a Being 0f Pure Consciousness. To dare offer a Scriptural idea we find simply put the statement that I AM describes this Being. Or another statement as the One who is, who was and who is to come.
Yet contained within this Consciousness are all possible states of existence and with that of knowing and with that of .... so suddenly it does get complex. Yet, there is disclosed to the one who seeks a way of knowing this Being. Whether we accept that the Scriptural account of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament is valid is another story.
So the description required to understand who God is – is rather small if one counts as the evidence a collection of 66 books or more depending on denominational affiliation. Yet, the understanding of this description embraces the mind in a journey of ever increasing awe and wonder and growth in the knowledge that can come to those who seek God. Because He does reward those who seek Him.

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

With your recipe and 20-sided die examples, you are not making any headway. Neither is relevant to your blanket statement about "ignorance lowers the odds"...

I did not say that ignorance lowers the odds ontologically. That is, it is not as if my ignorance changes the actual outcome. Rather, my ignorance of which outcome will occur and my ignorance of the mechanism by which the outcome will be selected reduces my estimate of the odds of any particular outcome. It has to. Whatever argument I provide for getting a particular outcome could be applied equally to any other outcome, and so there is no basis for arguing that one outcome is more likely than any other.

Suppose there are N outcomes, and I am making an estimate that a particular outcome will be actualized. These probabilities are p1, p2, p3, ..., PN. If I am ignorant of the mechanism by which outcomes are selected, then I have no basis for declaring that p1 and p2 differ. pi = pj for all i and j.

The more I learn, the better I will be able to pin down the probability distribution.

A theory is a particular probability distribution.

...but you're making a blunder in the new scenario as well. You can't possibly think that the recipe scenario is equal to the 20-sided die scenario, can you? Unless the chef was rolling a 100-sided die to choose between 100 different recipes, the scenarios aren't remotely the same.

On what basis was the chef choosing which recipe to cook?

You seem to be complaining that no PARTICULAR chef would have a perfectly even distribution in the recipes he will cook. Every chef will have preferences. Sure. But I don't know which chef this is, and not knowing anything at all about the chef, I have no reason to privilege pi over pj or vice versa. So, for the purposes of my estimate, the chef might as well be rolling a die.

Now, if you want to gauge the chef's distribution by surveying the populations of chefs, and find that on average, a chef is 50% likely to make a steak dish, then you're changing your probability distribution and increasing the estimate of some pi BY REMOVING IGNORANCE.

Put the ignorance back, and you revert to a flat distribution across all outcomes.

Doctor Logic said...

Is it more likely I rolled the 1 on a 6-sided die or a 20-sided die?

Depends, die two could have been rigged to land on one more without you knowledge. So you may think that die two has a 1-in-20 chance of landing a 1 but in reality it has a 1-in-3 chance of landing on one or a 1-in-1 chance. Like I keep saying and you keep ignoring, your beliefs doesn't effect actual probability.


I didn't say that my estimate of probability changes reality. I said that my level of knowledge affects my estimate of probability.

And the less information I have, the more even the distribution among the possible outcomes.

In the example with the dice, you are suggesting that the dice could be loaded. But so what? This does not affect the stimate in the absence of knowledge about loading of the dice.

What if the dice are loaded to get a 1? What of they are loaded to get a 2? Or a 3? There's no basis for you to assume they are loaded towards any particular outcome, so you have to rank them equally for the purposes of your estimate.

BTW, the correct answer is that it is more likely I rolled the 1 on the six-sided die.

Probability is not an objective absolute, but relative to a determined set of conditions. When all the conditions are specified, the only probabilities are one or zero.

Determined here is in the sense of "known". The more you know, the less even (the less flat) the distribution.

Conversely, the more ignorance you have, the less determination there is, the flatter the distribution.

Doctor Logic said...

GREV,

There's a very peculiar orchid in South America. It has a very long, thin flower that birds and most insects cannot fertilize. Fortunately for the orchid, there's also a single species of very peculiar moth that has a proboscis that's perfectly suited to the flower.

Now isn't this an amazing coincidence? What are the odds?

Well, it turns out the odds are pretty good, and Charles Darwin predicted the moth's existence (or was it the flower's existence?).

There's a completely natural mechanism that accounts for this situation. The orchid and the moth both gain advantage from their differences. No designer is needed.

Similarly, it might be that the values of the physical constants are not just coincidences, but are related. It could be that there is a physical mechanism that regulates the constants to create structure in the universe. We don't know this, although we have reason to believe the parameters are related.

The point I'm making with probability is this.

You can argue that this just-so story about physics self-regulating the parameters is not a proper explanation because it isn't predictive, and I would agree. You can say that if I stick to versions of physics in which the parameters self-regulate, then I am fine-tuning physics. Again, I would agree.

But what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If you don't assume anything about God, then there are vastly more possible worlds we could find ourselves in than is the case with physics. And if we're not playing favorites and fine-tuning God, then the overabundance of possible theistic worlds works against the inference to theism, not for it.

Your story about a creator God is a just-so story that isn't predictive of anything. If I'm not allowed non-predictive just-so stories, then neither are you.

JS Allen said...

"Rather, my ignorance of which outcome will occur and my ignorance of the mechanism by which the outcome will be selected reduces my estimate of the odds of any particular outcome. It has to."

No it doesn't. That's crazy. Bayes doesn't work that way.

Ignorance could raise your probability of a particular outcome. After interacting with you on this thread, I estimate a 20% chance that you're a real doctor in science or math. When I was more ignorant, I gave it a 40% chance.

Of course, even complete ignorance needn't have demanded that I give a 50% chance to you being an actual doctor. Everyone has priors, and mine wouldn't allow such a high probability given the context.

Heck, you don't even need to invoke priors to see that ignorance need not even cause the probabilities to be more evenly distributed.

Seriously, if you said in class that "ignorance ... reduces my estimate of the odds of any particular outcome", you will flunk.

BTW, I suppose you've conceded that you were wrong about complexity, since you continue to ignore that point?

"a theory is a particular probability distribution"

I can't find a single citation of "theory" being defined this way, even if I take out the word "particular". It sounds like you're making stuff up again.

This is why I keep asking you to cite whichever book you learned this stuff from. If I heard any of this stuff from a guy in the park, I would think he was a crackpot. Normally, people who say things like this eventually start talking about infinite loops and magnetic fields, and offering tinfoil helmets. But you claim to be a doctor, so I'm going to assume that you're just bad at communicating, or else that you made some simple mistake in what you remember from the book.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

I didn't say that my estimate of probability changes reality. I said that my level of knowledge affects my estimate of probability.

That doesn't seem to be the case with sentences like I'm saying that ignorance translates into lower odds for a specific outcome.

But so what? This does not affect the stimate in the absence of knowledge about loading of the dice.

Probabilities express uncertainty and it is only people who are uncertain. A blank map does not correspond to blank territory. As E. T. Jaynes put it ignorance is in the mind. If you are ignorant of a phenomenon that is a fact about your state of mind not a fact about the phenomenon.

So why do you say things like It certainly seems to me that theism has vastly more possibilities, and, hence, many many more shares and act like that settles the issue? The only thing you have done is voiced your personal opinion on the subject.

There's no basis for you to assume they are loaded towards any particular outcome, so you have to rank them equally for the purposes of your estimate.

As Allen has said, Everyone has priors. I could have rigged the dice myself, I could be an experienced gambler with good enough hand and eye coordination to force an outcome I want, the company I bought the dice from does shoddy workmanship and their dice are not properly balanced, etc... The point is that I am not obligated to rank them equally for the purposes of my estimate.

BTW, the correct answer is that it is more likely I rolled the 1 on the six-sided die.

BTW, that is not the correct answer. You think the probability is that you are more likely to roll a 1 with the six sided die.

GREV said...

Karl -- I will Goggle Search this E. T. Jaynes but I was wondering why do you cite this person? What do you like?

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

Suppose you know that the outcome of an event will be one of 6 possibilities, and that's all you know.

What is the probability of getting any particular outcome?

It's obvious that the only consistent solution is to expect each outcome to be equally probable. And alternative is inconsistent in the sense that you have no basis for putting more probability in one outcome bucket than another.

If we set up the same scenario, but say there are 20 possible outcomes, then you're in exactly the same position, but now each outcome bucket has 1/20th of the total probability instead of 1/6th.

You're going to extreme lengths to reject this.

I said
Rather, my ignorance of which outcome will occur and my ignorance of the mechanism by which the outcome will be selected reduces my estimate of the odds of any particular outcome. It has to.

And, yes, this was poorly phrased. What I meant was that my assessment of the distribution becomes more uniform, and more favored outcomes become less favored, and less favored outcomes become more favored.

Suppose I have loaded a die that preferentially rolls a 1. My knowledge of how this die is loaded makes me put more of my assessed probability in the 1 bucket. But if all I know is that the die is loaded, but not how it is loaded, then I have no reason to put more probability in the 1 bucket than in the 6 bucket or the 3 bucket.

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

BTW, I suppose you've conceded that you were wrong about complexity, since you continue to ignore that point?

Not at all. I'm getting the probability questions out of the way first.

You say that you've never heard a theory defined as a probability distribution. How about hypothesis, then?

Remember? In Bayesian analysis you might have seen terms like P(E|T): the probability of E given theory T or hypothesis T.

If theories/hypotheses weren't probability distributions, then you wouldn't be able to get a P(E|T).

Karl Grant said...

Grev,

I cited Edwin Thompson Jaynes because he was an expert on probability theory, statistical mechanics and Bayesian inference; unlike a certain internet doctor.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

Probabilities express uncertainty and it is only people who are uncertain.

I could be wrong, but last I checked, we were people. And the question here is an assessment by people (namely, us) as to whether it was more or less likely that God exists based on evidence that people (again, us) have found from physics.

We have access only to appearances, and we have to assess likelihood or confidence based on those appearances. There is always some uncertainty.

Is this not a question of estimating under uncertainty?

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

I could be wrong, but last I checked, we were people. And the question here is an assessment by people (namely, us) as to whether it was more or less likely that God exists based on evidence that people (again, us) have found from physics.

You're reading what Allen and I are writing but it's just not clicking in your brain for some reason. If it was you would realize that probability of God's existence would vary from person to person and that their belief in that probability does not actually effect God's existence one way or the other. So saying that you think God's existence is improbable (big surprise coming from an atheist) and acting like that proves the superiority atheism to theism is tantamount to saying It's my opinion, therefore it's right!

Is this not a question of estimating under uncertainty?

If it was you would at least be attempting to engage in worse case scenario thinking. I.E, I can't know for sure which idea is correct. This is what I think is possible but what is the worst that can happen if I am wrong?. An example of this kind of reasoning is Pascal's Wager. It is also the reason most people don't jump off a bridge even if they think they could survive the fall because they know what the likely consequences are if their belief in their probability of survival is wrong. So far, I have yet to have seen anything like this out of you.

Karl Grant said...

But if all I know is that the die is loaded, but not how it is loaded, then I have no reason to put more probability in the 1 bucket than in the 6 bucket or the 3 bucket.

You know, when I saw this I thought my eyes were playing tricks since this is something most high school freshmen math students wouldn't be caught saying. If you know the die is rigged then you already know there is not an equal probability the die will land on 1 or 3, even if you don't know exactly how it is rigged. You know the odds are tilted in favor of one number though not which one; which means that you know the odds are not even and you do not have an even chance of winning on each number!

So trying to say you have an equal chance of winning on 1 or 3 with this die is completely and utterly insane and goes against prior knowledge. It is like trying to deny reality!

I am also going to suggest that you stay out of the casinos because, man oh man, will they love you!

JS Allen said...

DL,

I see. You've written 2,700 words since I challenged you, and now you finally concede my first point:

"DL: Isn't it true that my ignorance means the expectation of my getting heads is lower?"

"JS: Wrong -- FAIL."

DL:"My ignorance of which outcome will occur and my ignorance of the mechanism by which the outcome will be selected reduces my estimate of the odds of any particular outcome. It has to."

"JS: Wrong -- FAIL."

"DL: yes, this was poorly phrased. What I meant was that my assessment of the distribution becomes more uniform, and more favored outcomes become less favored, and less favored outcomes become more favored."

Wow, really? "Poorly phrased"? That's not going to save you from flunking. How about completely wrong? Show me in the past 2,700 words where you ever "phrased" it differently. You've been beating this hobby horse claiming that it lowers the odds, which is exactly why I flunked you.

As I have said from the very beginning, the odds might go up, they might go down, and they might stay the same. Thanks for completely capitulating and acknowledging my original point.

Next, please stop trying to act like this is a dice game. An infinite number of new possibilities doesn't infinitely dilute the odds, though you seem to desperately want to believe that.

Also, please get around to responding to my second point, now that you've conceded the first:

DL: "However, God makes a terrible explanation for an ultimate physical theory because God is vastly more complex."

"JS: Incoherent -- FAIL.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

If it was you would realize that probability of God's existence would vary from person to person and that their belief in that probability does not actually effect God's existence one way or the other.

I was never saying that, and you know it.

According to you, all probability estimates are just opinions. But that's just plain wrong. Probabilities can be inferred. And inferences are not opinions, even if inferences are only as good as the data available to the observer.

If it was you would at least be attempting to engage in worse case scenario thinking.

Bullshit. What we are asking is whether, given the evidence, it is probable that the universe was designed. If you think that all probabilities are opinions and not inferences, then the evidence is irrelevant to you, so you can quit talking about physics and fine-tuning.

Even if Pascal's Wager were a valid argument (which it isn't because it begs the question), that doesn't affect the the inferred probability estimate of whether God exists. Pascal's Wager purports to show that even if it is a 1 in a million shot that God exists, the expectation value (probability * reward) is higher in the case of God, therefore, you should bet on God. It doesn't tell you should believe in God. You can't believe in something improbable just because the reward will be high if it turns out to be true.

The reward is really high if I play the lottery and win, but that doesn't affect the inference to the probability that I will win. If there are 50 numbered balls chosen at random, the odds of getting any combination are roughly 1 in 16 million. If the prize is $32 million, and tickets are $1 each, and each player is guaranteed not to share, then it's totally worth playing this lottery, assuming you have a few bucks to spare. The expectation value is $2 return for every $1 you put in (assuming you buy enough tickets). However, just because I have a high expectation value on the return, does not mean I am LIKELY to win if I put in $1.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

If you know the die is rigged then you already know there is not an equal probability the die will land on 1 or 3, even if you don't know exactly how it is rigged. You know the odds are tilted in favor of one number though not which one; which means that you know the odds are not even and you do not have an even chance of winning on each number!

Sigh. Why can't you read what I say in the fashion that it has to be read? Obviously, if I know the die is loaded, then I know that, if I roll the dice many times, I can infer the actual distribution, and know what numbers are more or less likely to come up. That is, if I get more information by rolling the die many times, then I know just what the distribution looks like, and given that the die is loaded, it won't be a uniform distribution. THAT is obvious, but misses the point.

If you know the die is loaded, but not how it is loaded, then what are the odds that you'll roll a 1 versus a 4 or a 6? Since you know nothing except the die is loaded, and you don't know how it is loaded, you can't say whether it is loaded to roll 1's or 3's or 4's or any other value. The information situation you're in is equivalent to having 6 loaded dice, each one equally loaded to favor a different side, and then rolling another fair die to determine which of the loaded dice should be rolled. In other words, the probability distribution of you seeing any particular outcome starting from not knowing how the die is loaded is uniform.

If you don't get this, then there's no point in talking to you further about probability. You're either being deliberately uncooperative, or probability isn't your strong suit.

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

Nice quote mining:

DL: Isn't it true that my ignorance means the expectation of my getting heads is lower?

You've taken me out of context. Just search for that phrase on this page, and you'll see that it's correct in context.

In other words, if you read my examples, and take them in context, I've been correct all along.

Meanwhile, you're not a paragon of clarity here, yourself. You said:

You can't reduce someone's expectations that I made hamburgers by generating a bunch of imaginary recipes that I might make, just like you can't dilute away your bad math with an infinite number of gibberish arguments.

What does that mean?

Did you mean that if the subject has a mountain of statistical data showing that the chef is 84% likely to prepare steak, that such odds won't change if I discover a new recipe the chef might make (or might have made)? That sounds reasonable.

Or do you mean, not knowing what a chef might make (lacking statistics), that realizing there are more possibilities than before will not alter the odds? Because that directly contradicts the point we just agreed upon.

Next, please stop trying to act like this is a dice game. An infinite number of new possibilities doesn't infinitely dilute the odds, though you seem to desperately want to believe that.

100% incorrect.

If I know there is a classical point particle moving in a cylindrical container, but I don't know its position, the odds of that particle being in any particular position are infinitesimal. On the other hand, if I ask if it will be in the upper half of the cylinder, the odds will be 50%. So don't pretend people don't use probability on systems with an infinite number of states.

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

So, one more time.

Theory A is compatible with N different possible observations. Theory B is compatible with M different possible observations. Observation shows we live in a world compatible with both theories. What should we infer about the likelihood of theory A being true relative to theory B?

Quit strutting, and answer the question.

JS Allen said...

You have an odd way of admitting that you were wrong, but we can move on, I suppose.

"Theory A is compatible with N different possible observations. Theory B is compatible with M different possible observations. Observation shows we live in a world compatible with both theories. What should we infer about the likelihood of theory A being true relative to theory B?"

The number of possible observations shouldn't have any bearing. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "possible observations". Do you mean, "possible but not actual"? And, if so, what kind of possibility -- logical, epistemic, etc?

GREV said...

DL:

Thanks again for your reply.

AS it is Easter Week I am busy with other things and a more full schedule than usual.

You said -- "If you don't assume anything about God, then there are vastly more possible worlds we could find ourselves in than is the case with physics."

But the point is for me, note I say for me, that I do assume certain things about God. About a Super Intelligent Being that has created and disclosed to us certain things and that the laws of physics are a reflection, note are not this Being, but a reflection of what this Being is like. But these laws cannot exhaust my understanding or anyone else's.

And when someone writes about possible worlds my reply to a Molinist or to anyone else is the same, let's deal with the world we have. A world that comprises these fundamental constants, these aspects of nature defined and described by physicists in there gathering of the data concerning THIS WORLD.

And the data tells me I have great confidence in saying that the data points to the idea of a Creator Being.

You write -- “Your story about a creator God is a just-so story that isn't predictive of anything. If I'm not allowed non-predictive just-so stories, then neither are you.”

Sorry, but I believe the idea of a Creator God is predictive of a great many things. If you wish to make a case for naturalistic explanations being predictive – go for it. Some day the evidence might favour you. I am willing to grant that. I don't believe it will happen. The evidence as discovered by scientists as they practice science, does what Francisco Ayala said it would do in a article he wrote several years ago. And if anyone questions the citing of Ayala, their will be issues.

And that is, the evidence allows the scientists to tell us how the physical thing in question was put together but it cannot give us the ultimate explanation. Naturalism and materialism cannot bear the weight of these necessary ultimate explanations that are sought after by so many down through the ages.

If you, and I am not saying you explicitly in the following, or anyone else wishes to see nothing predictive or purposeful in why we are here fine. I find that thoroughly uninspiring.

A Creator God allows us to understand and see an order and predictive quality and reason to life. And many other things as well. And the evidence from physics supports such an understanding.

Oh, and this comment of yours settles little -- “There's a completely natural mechanism that accounts for this situation. The orchid and the moth both gain advantage from their differences. No designer is needed.”

So, God structures creation to develop through natural mechanisms. So what? It does not disprove the need for a designer and a sustainer of this world that the mechanisms operate in.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,


I 'll let other people read your posts and be the judge of what you said.

Anyway, the difference between inferences and opnions is often razor thin. When all details concerning an event's probability are known the only options are 1 or 0, I believe I said that before. Inferences are the best guess we make when knowledge is incomplete. Knowledge varies from person to person; I know things you don't, you know things I don't. But when you start basing your inferences on things you just made up, like Vampires or there are so many possible worlds we can imagine(keyword imagine), or basing them off of your opinions, God is vastly more complex than, say, string theory, you are heading into La La Land.

If you think that all probabilities are opinions and not inferences, then the evidence is irrelevant to you, so you can quit talking about physics and fine-tuning.

I am not the one making up possibilities and mistakenly believing that lowers the odds against something I don't like existing. Nor am I confusing my opinions with proven facts. That would be you.

Also, Pascal's Wager is about hedging bets in the face of uncertainty, not inferring probability. You do understand the concept of hedging bets, I hope? Because your response doesn't seem to indicate that.

Karl Grant said...

Why can't you read what I say in the fashion that it has to be read?

Could be you are not being clear. Could be you are not thinking your responses through.

In other words, the probability distribution of you seeing any particular outcome starting from not knowing how the die is loaded is uniform.

Let me get this straight. You know from the start that there is not an even probability distribution on the numbers, though you do not know which number has a higher probability. Yet, you are still going to assign an even probability to each number as opposed to what most people in this situation would do which is admit that they don't have enough information to make an accurate probability assessment at the current time.

So, you are basically saying that your prior knowledge that there is an uneven probability distribution is not going to prevent you from assigning an even probability distribution to each number. And you say I don't understand probability as opposed to you?

You don't mind if I send this to Reader's Digest? They pay good money to put things like this in their Life's Like That article.

Anonymous said...

“So, you are basically saying that your prior knowledge that there is an uneven probability distribution is not going to prevent you from assigning an even probability distribution to each number. And you say I don't understand probability as opposed to you?”

That’s exactly what you do when you randomly guess on a multiple choice question when you have no clue what the correct answer is: you assign the same probability to each option, even though the probability (from the test giver’s perspective) is 100% weighted in favor only one option (the correct one).

Does my penchant for random guessing when I don’t know the answer mean that I have a poor grasp of probability too? If so, what alternative (biased?) probability assignment would you suggest?

Andrew

JS Allen said...

Doktor Logik,

If I were you, I would never debate Karl Grant or Mr. Veale ever again. Plodding stubbornness is no match for gold medal championship debate team experience and raw IQ. By now, you're like Monty Python's "Black Knight", who insists that "it's only a flesh wound", after all of his limbs have been hacked off.

Limbless as you may be, I wonder what you think about this week's NPR piece about choices diluting meaning?

GREV said...

JS Allen -- many thanks for the link, a very interesting article.

Karl Grant said...

Andrew,

There is a difference between guessing on a purely random mechanism and guessing on something you know beforehand is not random. In this case, we know beforehand the die is rigged, we know that there is not an even probability distribution on each number.

In other words we know there is not a random chance on the numbers and there is no use pretending otherwise. So instead of assigning probability values, which we know are almost certainly wrong, the wisest course of action would be to admit there is not enough information to make an accurate probability distribution and wait until more information comes along.

Unless, of course, you wish to bet on a loaded die. In which case, you up for a game of poker? I could use some easy money right now.

Anonymous said...

But the multiple choice question is rigged too. The outcome is 100% rigged to favor the correct answer. Nevertheless, I make a guess and can be confident of a 25% success rate (assuming 4 options). That looks like an even (uniform) probability distribution to me, even though the question is rigged. If it works for multiple choice, why can’t the same principle apply (at least in some contexts) to the loaded die?

At any rate, I think I see where you are going with this, but it’s a different subject. The question isn’t whether we’d be wise to gamble when we already know probability and the payout. The question is whether the probability has been correctly identified in the first place. The former is a question of value, the latter a question of fact.

Andrew

Karl Grant said...

Andrew,

Have you ever taken a multiple choice test with no prior studying and guessing randomly on each answer? That is what you would do if you wanted to assign an even 25% probability on each of the four answers. Most people don't do that. They study beforehand and chose the correct answers (like Allen said, Everybody has priors), or failing that, eliminating answers they know to be wrong in order to increase their odds guessing the correct answer. Either way, only someone destined to fail the test would assign an even probability to the answers and guess at random.

Or to put it another way, do you think teachers actually give a test to students, expecting only 1/4 of the class to pass at random?

Shackleman said...

I like Dr. Logic's approach. Let's see how it can work *for* us rather than against us.

Let 1 = Your existence

What are the odds you'd roll a 1, when there are an infinite number of ways you could *not* have *ever* existed?

By his logic, there is a 1 in *infinity* chance that you exist! And yet, here you are!

----------

And yet, some actually say with a straight face and believe sincerely that their very existence is *solely* the result of a near infinite set of random occurrences which extend all the way back through space and time to the very beginnings of the cosmos.

It boggles my mind that anyone could ever think such a thing, and I shutter when I think back to how I used to be among them.

---------

Remember, if Naturalism is true, you are not merely contingent upon your parents' having existed and survived long enough to produce offspring, and then produced offspring when they did (A different egg or sperm would be your brother or sister, not you!), but your existence is contingent upon the same set of requirements applied to your grandparents as well. Reverse your family tree ALL the way back in time to the primordial soup where there is nothing but single-celled bacterial life. One of them, eventually, through eons of time, is directly responsible for YOU. If any single one of the TRILLIONS of lifeforms in your *DIRECT* lineage had failed to survive long enough to produce offspring, YOU WOULD NOT HAVE EVER EXISTED.

As Doctor Logic would rightly ask...What are the odds???

GREV said...

Mr. Shackleman -- I must go and repent for having enjoyed way too MUCH your excellent reformulation of the good Doctor's approach.

On a more serious note -- rather nicely done.

Shackleman said...

Thank you sir.

GREV said...

Mr. Shackleman -- your comments made me think of a philosopher who talked of how before he became a believer in Christ, of the lengths to which he would go to deny God. About how stupid he became to get away from God.

Shackleman said...

I can empathize. Do you happen to remember the name? I'd want to compare experiences.

Doctor Logic said...

JS Allen,

Yeah, keep strutting and avoiding all the questions. Maybe you learned that on "debate" team.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

When all details concerning an event's probability are known the only options are 1 or 0, I believe I said that before. Inferences are the best guess we make when knowledge is incomplete.

So the distribution is like a delta function when you know all the facts, but the less you know, the more ignorant you are, the more you have to flatten out this distribution and give equal probability to all the possibilities. Which is what I have been saying all along.

But when you start basing your inferences on things you just made up, like Vampires or there are so many possible worlds we can imagine(keyword imagine), or basing them off of your opinions, God is vastly more complex than, say, string theory, you are heading into La La Land.

Well, If I can't do it, neither can you!!! You can't just make up physical constants and alternative decay rates and suppose that changes the odds of finding the universe with constants like it has! That's fantasy. The world is what it is under naturalism. So, if talking about alternate possibilities is prohibited, then you are equally prohibited from making your fine-tuning argument. Unpleasant for you when you're the target and not the shooter, huh?

Doctor Logic said...

Andrew,

Welcome to the planet Bizarro.

Doctor Logic said...

Shackleman,

What are the odds you'd roll a 1, when there are an infinite number of ways you could *not* have *ever* existed?

By his logic, there is a 1 in *infinity* chance that you exist! And yet, here you are!


Sure. And the same applies to a theistic worldview. So the only basis for comparison is some *relative* count of the number of possibilities in a natural world versus the number of corresponding states in a theistic world.

The same technique is used in real domains of study. Like the possibility of finding a classical particle anywhere in a continuous volume. There are an infinite number of points in the volume, and the probability of finding the particle at any specific point is infinitesimal. But we can say, for example, that the odds of finding the particle at the center bottom of the container is halved if the volume is doubled.

This kind of thinking may seem alien to you, but it's how we make inferences in every day life. When people remark, "What are the odds I would bump into you here?", they only do this because they can imagine the other person being at lots of other possible places consistent with the information they have. And even if the location of a person were infinitely variable (e.g., 1" to the left, 1.1" to the left, 1.001" to the left, etc.), they can still be seen if they are within a certain volume. So we get back to comparing volumes consisting of infinite numbers of points.

Doctor Logic said...

Shackleman,

Remember, if Naturalism is true, you are not merely contingent upon your parents' having existed and survived long enough to produce offspring, and then produced offspring when they did... As Doctor Logic would rightly ask...What are the odds???

First of all, exactly the same applies in theism. But in either case, there are regularities that mean that not all of the variables are independent.

Second, there are lots and lots of people. So the odds must be pretty good of finding yourself a born person in this world. The regularities will explain why the odds aren't against you.

Third, you run into the weak anthropic principle. Even if it was improbable, the only way you could ask the question would be if your parents survived.

So, either this is a very poor joke, or you're out of your depth.

Doctor Logic said...

GREV,

But the point is for me, note I say for me, that I do assume certain things about God.

Fine-tuning. I assume the laws of physics are a particular way.

And when someone writes about possible worlds my reply to a Molinist or to anyone else is the same, let's deal with the world we have.

So why are you talking about universes with alternative physical constants? Let's deal with the world we have.

You can't have it both ways. If you want to use fine-tuning arguments, you have to compare apples to apples. If you want to enumerate strange, alternative naturalistic worlds, then you must also enumerate strange, alternative theistic worlds, and there are a hell of a lot more strange supernatural worlds than strange naturalistic ones.

So, God structures creation to develop through natural mechanisms. So what? It does not disprove the need for a designer and a sustainer of this world that the mechanisms operate in.

Er, yes, it does, probabilistically. Suppose there is a murder in a hotel room in NYC, and a suspect is found in New Orleans. The suspect is the victim's ex-girlfriend. The suspect's finger prints match those found in the room. Well, it's possible that the suspect happened, by chance. to take a vacation to NYC the week before, and happened to stay in the exact same room where the murder took place. Sure. That could happen. But it isn't likely. There are thousands of cities and hundreds of thousands of alternative hotel rooms the suspect could have gone to while on vacation. There are thousands if not millions of possible ways we can imagine the suspects vacation going that do not involve her even staying at the same hotel.

Yet, in the opposing theory, if the suspect was the murderer, then the suspect had to find herself in that exact hotel room in that exact city. So we infer that the suspect is the murderer.

But you are saying that it is possible that God chose to make a world that looks natural out of the countless possible worlds he could have created that don't look natural. Meanwhile, physicalism says the world will be found to be natural (like it is).

The analogy is perfect. If you can find the suspect guilty of murder, then you can find naturalism guilty of explaining our universe.

Shackleman said...

Dr. Logic,

"Second, there are lots and lots of people. So the odds must be pretty good of finding yourself a born person in this world. The regularities will explain why the odds aren't against you."

Of the DNA that codes for proteins in the human genome, there are (4^300)^25,000 different possible combinations. Only *ONE* of which can be me. Or you. That number is so big as to be incomprehensible. This leaves out the other 98% percent of the DNA that doesn't code for proteins. For sake of argument, let's assume the rest is junk (though recent findings are pointing against that assumption).

So, of all the possible (4^300)^25,000 sequences of protein encoding DNA, only ONE can be me (or you). The odds are ***astronomically***, ***incomprehensibly*** against me. Or you.

What you *can* do is throw your hands up in the air and be thankful that you hit the genome lottery. But what you *can't* do is suggest the odds of YOUR existence are favorable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your existence is a near impossibility! And yet, here you are. Don't you feel special? You should!

It seems now that when the odds are clearly shown to be infinitely stacked against you, you'd like to abandon all this talk about probability and odds making and instead change the subject to weak anthropic principles and such. I really can't blame you, because I think it's clear by now that the whole probability argument you were trying to make is a canard.

I suppose I could be out of my depths as you declare. But more likely is that you haven't yet thought about this deeply enough!

For a very readable explanation by a competent geneticist, see here: http://www.thetech.org/genetics/ask.php?id=149)

GREV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GREV said...

Science explains how the world is made it cannot bear the ultimate purpose filled explanations regarding why everything was made.

GREV said...

Mr. Shackleman -- I believe the philosopher making the comment -- about how stupide he got in order to remain an atheist -- was this person -- What We Can't Not Know: A Guide [Paperback]
J. Budziszewski.

He was quoted in a message by DA Carson who did not give the book or article reference if I remember correctly. Which I thought was unfortunate.

The book I mention above by this philosopher, I do want to get.

GREV said...

Doctor L -- I don't believe I ever said God makes a world that looks natural. If so, my mistake.

A world that is Natural made through naturalistic mechanisms, which were established and set in place by a Creator -- Super Intellligent Being is what I lay a claim to.

GREV said...

And following from that is I hope the obvious point that this Creator is not reducible to the laws that govern how the universe came into being.

GREV said...

Doctor L. -- :then you must also enumerate strange, alternative theistic worlds, and there are a hell of a lot more strange supernatural worlds "

Which one is it? Theistic Worlds or Supernatural Worlds?

There is a difference.

Doctor Logic said...

Shackleman,

But what you *can't* do is suggest the odds of YOUR existence are favorable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your existence is a near impossibility! And yet, here you are. Don't you feel special? You should!

You quote giant magnitudes for the number of possible DNA base combinations in my genome as if the possible base permutations were independent variables.

But they aren't independent, and that's why it's not so improbable that I have DNA that codes for me. There is a regularity that living things evolve through codes in their DNA. The odds of any evolved being matching its genetic blueprint are almost 1.

However, the less you know about the relationships, the more unexplained and the more improbable things would seem. This is the reasoning you use when you look at fine-tuning. We don't know why the constants are the way they are. If they are independent variables, then they will seem awfully improbable. And that's a problem for naturalism if you have an alternative that has fewer degrees of freedom. BUT YOU DON'T!!! Theism has vastly more degrees of freedom. It has all the dgrees of freedom of naturalism times infinitely more supernatural degrees of freedom.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

Then you should know that levels of knowledge and ignorance vary from person to person. Meaning somebody else is under no obligation to accept your personal view on the probability of theism versus atheism. Especially, if they know more about science and probability then you.

You can't just make up physical constants and alternative decay rates

Show me one place were I made up physical constants and alternative decay rates. If you are talking about the Mass 5-8 bottleneck, that is an established fact of nuclear physics and what I said would not raise any eyebrows in your typical university or research lab. If you say I made it up, well, that is just further evidence that you are not a real doctor in math or science.

The world is what it is under naturalism...

Question begging, Doctor Illogical. The validity of naturalism is what is being debated, amongst other things.


Also, talking about alternate possibilities you just made up is prohibited. Different theories based upon known facts are permitted. Things you pulled out of your ass are not (that includes flying spaghetti monster, pink unicorns, vampires and any other figments of your imagination.)

Unpleasant for you when you're the target and not the shooter, huh?

I have not found this discussion unpleasant, I have found it very entertaining. So I think this statement reveals more about you and your frame of mind concerning debates than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Karl,

I think you’re confused.

DL is simply judging theism by the same standards that theists hold naturalism to when they launch the fine tuning argument. Thus, if the theist gets to assume a uniform probability for all possible naturalistic worlds (which he does when he makes the fine tuning argument), the naturalist has equal right to assign a uniform probability to all possible super-naturalistic worlds.

By parity of argument, Bayesian priors are irrelevant: under fine tuning, probabilities are forced to be uniformly distributed across all possible outcomes (all possible permutations of physical constants), as opposed to being biased by naturalists’ Bayesian priors.

“Also, talking about alternate possibilities you just made up is prohibited. Different theories based upon known facts are permitted. Things you pulled out of your ass are not”

And why is that? Under the fine tuning argument the naturalist must accept the possibility that the gravitational constant could be some value that you “pulled out of your ass”, as opposed to the value that it actually is. Why can’t the naturalist do the same—that is, pull scenarios “out of his ass”—when he considers possible worlds that could obtain under theism?

Andrew

GREV said...

Andrew:

Unless I am mistaken the constants described by the physicists are not pulled out of their ... or thin air or in whatever imaginary way you seem to want or need to posit in defence of whatever you are defending.

The constants are arrived at from observable data that gives the person good confidence in saying that this fine tuning is no mere accident.

Karl Grant said...

Andrew,

As Grev said, physicists don't make up alternate scenarios out of nothing. Suppose I said it is possible that Lord Singshir of the Planet Intimi seeded human life on Earth a couple of hundred thousand years ago and propose this as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Now does the fact that I just made up that scenario and say it might be an alternative to the evolutionary theory lessen the odds against evolution having taken place? No, it does not. Now think about Doctor Logic's vampires and imaginary worlds; do they lessen the odds against God's existence? The answer is no. You say otherwise, you think your imagination can alter reality.

Also, all known evidence needs to be counted in the probability distribution. Doctor Logic has already demonstrated that he is willing to ignore eyewitness testimony when creating his probability distribution; so what else is he willing to ignore?

Doctor Logic said...

GREV,

Gravitation is much weaker than electromagnetism, and electromagnetism is much weaker than the strong nuclear force at long distances. When physicists write these forces into a set of equations, the relative values of the constants representing those forces are correspondingly very different. At the end of the day, we're left with equations that describe the observable universe. These equations have been extremely successful.

But then we can ask, whay are the laws of physics what they are?

There might be no answer, but if we want to apply probability to the problem, we have to ask ourselves, how many other kinds of laws of physics could there have been?

So we start changing the constants in the equations to explore that space of possibilities.

But there's no actual evidence that gravity varies or that it could have been different relative to electromagnetism. This possibility is being pulled out of thin air.

There's no difference at all between that and asking "what if God had given us vampire abilities to overcome death by most material means?"

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

there's no actual evidence that gravity varies or that it could have been different relative to electromagnetism. This possibility is being pulled out of thin air.

Wrong. Further evidence that you don't hold a real doctorate.

There's no difference at all between that and asking "what if God had given us vampire abilities to overcome death by most material means?"

Actually, there is a difference between altering a known equation or known variable and what you are trying to do, which is asking What if 2 + 2 = 5.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

Please, please look at Bayes Theorem:

P(T|E) = P(E|T) P(T)/
(P(E|T) P(T) + P(E|~T) P(~T))

This tells us how we should change our confidence in a theory, T, in light of new evidence, E.

This equation relies on values like P(E|T) and P(E|~T). That is, what is the probability of finding the evidence given the theory, or "How much does T predict E?"

And this gets counter weighted by the likelihood of finding E, even if T is false.

So how do you compute P(E|T)? You have to look at all of the possible T-consistent outcomes consistent with E, and then divide by the number of T-consistent outcomes that are consistent with ~E. In other words, what fraction of the time will T produce E?

Every T-consistent outcome has to be considered, even those that involve pulling imagines scenarios out of thin air.

Obviously, I can tune T based on experiment so that it precisely predicts E and not ~E. That's what physics does in the lab. It means that P(E|T) is very close to 1. It's been tuned to do that. And fine-tuning is great when you have the experimental evidence to back it up.

continued...

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

Wrong. Gravity does vary, even here on Earth. This had been observed, confirmed and documented. Further evidence that you don't hold a real doctorate.

And actually there is a difference between altering a known equation or known variable and what you are trying to do, which is asking What if 2 + 2 = 5.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

What we're trying to do here is decide between two meta-theories. The physical theory isn't in question. What's in question is the origin of the physical theory. Broadly, the two meta theories are (a) an intelligence designed the physical theory for some purpose, or (b) the physical theory was not designed.

In both cases, we can create fine-tuned meta-theories. (a.ft) the intelligence designed our universe to be exactly what it is, and the universe could not possibly have been any different because the purpose in question is to make the universe exactly the way we find it, and (b.ft) physics was not designed, but physics could not possibly have been any different, and so we end up in a universe exactly the way we find it.

But (a.ft) and (b.ft) are fine-tuned, untestable, and not predictive. We can't infer anything from them, and no theory is more privileged (except that (b.ft) doesn't violate Ockham's Razor).

To look at the relative merits of a non-fine-tuned theory of physics versus a non-fine-tuned theory of design, we have to consider non-trivial theories. For example, if you could show that there were far fewer ways to design universes supernaturally than there were ways to get naturalistic universes, then you would have a case. But the reverse is true! If you are going to consider all the ways physics could have been different, you must also consider all the ways supernatural universes could have been different.

Karl Grant said...
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Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

Wrong. Gravity does vary, even here on Earth. This had been observed, confirmed and documented. Further evidence that you don't hold a real doctorate.

http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=465

And actually there is a difference between altering a known equation or known variable and what you are trying to do, which is asking What if 2 + 2 = 5.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

The thing that you keep ignoring is that you are not computing consistent outcomes. You are computing outcomes you drug out of your imagination. Or starting from assumptions that fly in the face of observed data (gravity does not vary indeed).

And since you bring up Occam's Razor, allow me to quote Phil Gibbs at Physics FAQs (http://www.weburbia.com/physics/):

To begin with we used Occam's razor to separate theories which would predict the same result for all experiments. Now we are trying to choose between theories which make different predictions. This is not what Occam intended...The law of parsimony is no substitute for insight, logic and the scientific method. It should never be relied upon to make or defend a conclusion. As arbiters of correctness only logical consistency and empirical evidence are absolute.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

You're pretty arrogant for someone who doesn't know what the gravitational constant is. Even if the gravitational constant is fixed, that doesn't mean that the force due to gravity (or spacial curvature) is the same everywhere. Even under Newton
F=GMm/r^2
So if you're near something massive, there's more gravitation. Force due to gravity isn't the same as G, which is a constant.

Look, neither G, nor the electromagnetic constant, nor the weak coupling constant have ever been observed to change in the lab. At high energies, the forces look the same, but the constants don't change in the Standard Model. So you are just plain wrong about this. There are theories in which these constants might change, but none of those theories has been confirmed in the lab.

So if you say the physical constants might change, you're pulling that possibility out of your butt.

The thing that you keep ignoring is that you are not computing consistent outcomes. You are computing outcomes you drug out of your imagination.

Variable physical constants are coming out of your imagination. Go look up the Standard Model. You'll see that it has constants. They have values that do not change. People who talk about alternate physics are IMAGINING those constants changing - they are imaging alternate reality, and thinking there are an awful lot of imaginable alternate realities.

If they want to do that, fine, but fair's fair.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

Oh, I know what the gravitational constant is. You just used the word gravity in your post(there's no actual evidence that gravity varies) And you are pretty dumb for someone who claims to be a Doctor of Logic. Or you don't read scientific literature; more than a couple of university reasearch teams say the constants change.

http://www.space.com/9122-physics-fundamental-cosmic-constant-shifty.html

http://www.economist.com/node/16930866

http://www.intalek.com/Papers/SiderealGravity.pdf

People who talk about alternate physics are IMAGINING those constants changing

Really? Go tell that to astrophysicist John Barrow of the University of Cambridge or John Webb and Julian King of the University of New South Wales. I am sure they will be happy to hear some annoymous internet dumbass tell them they imagined their work.

Karl Grant said...

Also, some theoretical models for a grand unified field theory actually predict this kind of violation of the constants in order to reconcile the different equations.

http://photontheory.com/willis.htm

So maybe you shouldn't go on too much about the constants while at the same time espousing a grand unified theory.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

You're wasting your time.

First of all, this work on fluctuating constants is speculative. It's not mainstream physics. That's why you quoted two pop science articles, a crank site (photontheory), and an unpublished paper from a team not affiliated with a physics department. The NSW team is just one result.

Second, even if it were mainstream (which it isn't), it obviously doesn't significantly affect the habitability of spacetime. It's not as if we look out and see regions of space where the constants are so different that stars cannot form. That means that the *observed* fluctuations are not of the variety relevant to the fine-tuning problem as you conceive it.

Third, even if we suppose the variation could be radical across all space (even if not yet observed), that actually makes our universe a microcosm of the multiverse, i.e., it could be that all values of the constants are realized throughout the universe, so there's inevitably a place that's friendly for life.

Finally, if these sorts of variations are fair game, then the same standard should apply to theology.
http://tinyurl.com/3mb9hln

There are thousands of religious cults with various different supernatural schemes (dozens within Christianity alone), some of them radically different. And they're a hell of a lot more radical than the kinds of changes to physical constants speculated upon by physicists.

If different physical constants are fair game for physicists, then OBSERVED fairies, vampires, medusas, dragons, cyclopses, ghosts, etc. are certainly fair game for supernaturalists.

Karl Grant said...
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Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

So, you're response is pretty much No, it's not! The 'pop' science articles, as you call them, provide links to the peer reviewed journals that the research was published and I suspect any scientist who supports a theory that contradicts what you believe is a 'crank.'After all, its not like you provided a detailed rebuttal or even a link to somebody critiquing the work.

Second, we can predict what it takes for stars to form, remember what I said about the Mass 5/8 Bottleneck (a point you keep refusing to address).

Third, the fact there are frauds who claim to be Christ returned in no way damages Christian theology any more than the fact that the recent Climategate scandal reduces the vladity of climate research or the fact that Hwang Woo-suk turned out to be a fraud damages the stem cell research field. And you are still appealing to ignorance (there are so many possibilities, we can't know).

And finally, and I have said this before, there is a difference in taking an equation like z + y = 4x-9x^2 and seeing what happens when you substitute different values for X and Y and what you are doing (what if 2+2 = 5). Anyway, this conversation has dragged on for over a week and I grow bored with plodding, close-minded stubbornness. I'll let you have the last word if you wish.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

1) Have we ever observed variability of physical constants anywhere in the universe that prevent stars (or life) from forming once the universe has cooled down?

No.

2) Can we imagine a counterfactual universe that would have different constants?

Yes.

3) Are these other counterfactual universes logically impossible (e.g., like 2+2=5)?

No. (With what we know so far about the independence of the constants)

4) Do we think that it is unlikely we will see the physical constants change?

Yes, because of induction. It's why we get up in the morning.

You claim that things like vampires and other creatures invulnerable to physical attacks are logically impossible, like 2+2=5. But they are not logically impossible, and there are even claimed observations of such creatures. If God wants to make a supernatural creature appear before me, that's not logically impossible. If you think it's logically impossible, then go ahead and tell us where the LOGICAL (and not INDUCTIVE) contradiction is.

You won't be able to do it. So if you want to consider the space of all physical constants, even those beyond what we have observed, then the naturalist is equally justified in considering the space of all supernatural possibilities beyond what we have observed.

Look, even if no observation of changes in physical constants had ever been made, the fine-tuning argument would still apply. And it would still apply equally well to theistic models, too.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

You know that as soon as you concede that physical and supernatural fine-tuning are analogous, theism will be found even more wanting than naturalism. For every possible physical universe, there are just lots more supernatural possibilities. And there are even supernatural possibilities in the absence of physical worlds. So, why, of all possible theistic worlds, does our world look just like a physical world? Theism does not explain this. Theism is conistent with it, but theism is consistent with almost anything we might possibly find.

The fine-tuning issue is important in physics as a discussion about physical constants, but the fine-tuning argument for God is a joke because God is far more fine-tuned than our physical universe.

GREV said...

How can the Creator and the Created ever be analogous?

God as Creator creates and sustains all that is seen and unseen.

The Creature is doing a bang up job of ruining the planet.

How can they ever be analogous?

God as Creator reaches down.

We as the creature try to reach up to bring God down.

How can they ever be analogous?

God discloses something of Himself and His actions. Or we would never know a thing about this Creator.

The creature seeks desparetely to be significant for a few years then it disappears into the dust from whence it came.

How can they ever be analogous?

It is naturalism that always be found wanting because naturalism cannot bear the weight of ultimate explanations and account for all the knowledge that we need to know.

JS Allen said...

DL,

This is boring.

"You know that as soon as you concede that physical and supernatural fine-tuning are analogous, theism will be found even more wanting than naturalism. For every possible physical universe, there are just lots more supernatural possibilities"

You continue to beat this hobbyhorse, trying to make an equivalence between two completely different things. Your stubborn refusal to make relevant distinctions is a particularly amateur form of sophistry, as several others have already pointed out. You'd flunk your math class if you did Bayes that way.

There are many better, less boring arguments against fine-tuning you could use. Please move on to something more interesting.